So….where do I start? Sometime back in December of 2015 I found myself in a conversation, as you do, about what vehicles you would one day like to own and Campervans came up. Now I have always quite liked the idea of owning one, and me being quite impulsive decided that having a quick browse on ebay might just get my juices flowing to go ahead and buy one, it sure did. It was followed by lots of research into campervans to see which was right for me.
I had a budget if I sold my current car at the time of around £7.5k. For that money it would see me have an old school
VW T2 that was in disrepair.
a VW T25 with thousands of miles on it close to its grave
or a VW T4, again with hundreds of thousands of miles on it, all of which were not converted with a kitchen unit and sleeping area and if they were, looking at them you would run a mile before stepping inside. It was starting to look like this dream was going to be short lived….
That was until I stumbled across this quirky looking alternative, the Mazda Bongo. I loved it, you could pick an unconverted one up for as little as 3k or a converted one for around my max limit upwards. The great thing with these is that they have a roof that lifts up to form a bedroom fitted to the vehicle straight from the factory, amongst many other perks compared to its rivals. These Bongos were only ever released in Japan, so any that are over here in the UK or any part of the world were imported.
So I had set my eyes on getting one, the only choice I now had to make was to either buy one that had already been stripped out and converted or buy one that hadn't and pay to convert it, which would have still been within my budget. There seemed to be two types of conversions that were fitted in these Bongos,
a side conversion like this
I could not decide which I preferred and which I thought offered the best practicality.
Either way I decided to go on the hunt looking at every single Bongo that was on offer at the time, converted or unconverted. I came across many that I liked, but there were always things that put me off and this was a trend that I noticed and realised it was because when these vans were originally converted whoever owned them decided on the style and layout according to their needs and tastes. So from that moment on I was on a mission to find an unconverted model to convert myself.
After lots of deliberation and researching the different Bongos MOT history, which if you live outside of the UK, is a vehicle inspection test which makes sure your car is roadworthy eg, have sufficient brake pad material left, tyre tread thickness, no rusting of the bodywork etc. Its quite an in depth test and certainly reveals a lot about the care that has been taken by previous/current owners of vehicles, which helped massively in finally choosing the Bongo for me.
One snowy winters morning on Sunday 16th of January, we set off to travel the 150 miles to go see this Bongo I had hand picked because of its good MOT history.
When we got there, there she was, covered slightly by the melting snow from the night before. There were a couple issues i was aware of with the body work, a bit of rust on the wheel arch and a couple paint chips but other than this it seamed like a good deal at the price of £3.5k for a vehicle with only 70k miles on it and mint MOT history. I decided to go ahead and buy it and a bit of haggling down on the price.
After I got her home I started to notice things I had missed when I went to go view her because of the the snow and water disguising what I now know to be the deterioration of the clear coat layer. This was disappointing and now needed to factor in a whole body re-spray within my budget, which was £2.5k chunk out of the budget.
On one hand this was a blow to the dream at the time but then on the other hand, I was given an opportunity to do something pretty unique and make it more….me. So off to the body shop she went to come back looking like this, hope you are ready for this.
This did mean the side conversion was out of the question now, as they started at £3.5k without fridge and electrics put in and even the cheaper rear conversions starting at £1.5k again that is without any fridge, cooker or electrics installed. So I felt I had two options really, save for a little longer and go for the rear conversion, or as Brian kept hinting, and I kept dismissing as I didn't know if I could pull it off , make my own as I have the software and CNC machine to do it.
Well on a train to Liverpool one Valentines afternoon, me and my girlfriend were having the conversation of what we should do to the interior and decided that with everything we wanted in our dream campervan, no standard template was going to give us that, and we could if we really put our minds to it, build our own conversion for much less and it had the potential to be everything we wanted.
So that was it decided, from there on in, I purchased everything I wanted in the van with the money I had left and went to work on designing my conversion around everything we wanted it to be on the inside.
This is Part 1 of a 3 Part Labs Project, Stay Tuned for Part 2 where we get into the design process. See you soon.